Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

Booze News 2.0: Eutaw Liquors.

March 22, 2019

photograph of Eutaw Liquors, a storefront with bright yellow security roll up doors

Eutaw Liquors, located across the street from Lexington Market in Baltimore’s Central Police District, is a fascinating example of the chasm between the Liquor Board’s enforcement of its rules and regulations and the daily experience of those in the vicinity of these licensed establishments.

In 2016, BNS Liquors, Inc. transferred ownership of the liquor license at 115-17 N. Eutaw Street to Jeanne’s Liquors, Inc. Ms. Ae S. Kim, according to the application, owns 99% of Eutaw Liquors; her fellow applicants, Keun Hyung Cho (who was already on the license under BNS Liquors) and Anthony Hargrove, each own half of the remaining percent of ownership. State law requires that one of the licensees be a resident and taxpayer of the jurisdiction where they’re applying for a license; it seems that Mr. Hargrove is on the license to fulfill this requirement.

According to Open Baltimore, there are only ten 311 complaints on the record at Eutaw Liquors since 2016: one liquor license complaint, one vacant building complaint, one health/odor complaint, one dirty alley complaint, one graffiti removal complaint, one trash can complaint, and four sewer-related complaints.

According to police reports, BPD had been receiving information from community members and merchants about drug activity at Eutaw Liquors. BPD conducted an undercover investigation in which a confidential informant purchased CDS (controlled dangerous substances, or illegal drugs) from a Eutaw Liquors employee. Based on this CDS purchase, BPD obtained a search and seizure warrant for Eutaw Liquors.

BPD Officer David Austin wrote in his report about the search and seizure warrant execution that, during his pre-raid surveillance of Eutaw Liquors on March 27, 2018 at 10:00am, he observed “groups of people entering and leaving the store quickly with no visible purchase.” He also saw loitering outside the store and in the vestibule. “Many individuals were conducting suspected CDS transactions directly in the front and vestibule area of 117 N. Eutaw St,” Austin added.

On the same day, March 27, 2018, at 12:20pm, members of three different units of BPD executed a search and seizure warrant at Eutaw Liquors. The licensees and their employees were detained during the search of the property and were later arrested.

Here is what was found inside the business:

  • One Mossberg 590 12 Gauge Shotgun, in the storeroom; four 12-gauge shotgun shells, inside the register area.
  • Two bags of suspected cocaine directly underneath the chair of Licensee Ae Kim, “easily within her lunge and grasp.”
  • Two bags of Ziploc bags with suspected cocaine residue, on the floor in the middle of the register area.
  • A green Crowne Royale bag, containing 24 blue top vials containing 4g suspected cocaine, 16 purple Ziploc bags with 4g suspected cocaine, a clear bag of 2g suspected heroin, CDS packaging, including a fine scale and a razor with suspected cocaine residue.
  • Two black bags with 56 Ziploc bags of 1g per bag of suspected marijuana, hidden in a pallet inside a walk-in refrigerator.

Austin stated that the “hording [sic] of CDS was present and plain sight in various locations that were restricted from customers. This includes the floor area of the register, the walk in freezer, and the storeroom. This is true for all three locations but especially the register area; any person working in this store could immediately and plainly see small Ziplocs of cocaine on the ground. The fact that it was laying [sic] on the ground for anyone to see, including Police, Fire, Liquor Board staff, who might have occasion to enter the location only highlights the lawlessness and fearlessness of the employees of 117 N. Eutaw St.”

Let’s take a look at what the Liquor Board staff did see and take note of in their reports!

Compliance Inspections

There are five “compliance inspections” on the record, four of which are from after the store was shut down as a result of the arrests.

February 20, 2018: The manager on duty when Inspector Howard visited on this date was Shawnell Batts, one of the employees who was arrested one month later during the police raid. (According to Maryland Judiciary Casesearch, Mr. Batts pled guilty to possession of CDS with intent to distribute and was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment in February 2019.) Inspector Howard saw nothing to concern him, according to his report. His only note is: “Licensee has an employee dedicated to assuring that there are no opening containers inside or outside of the store.”

After the police raid and search in March 2018, BPD padlocked the business. The Liquor Board scheduled a hearing for May 3, over a month later, and tried to serve the licensees with notice of the hearing four times by going… to Eutaw Liquors. Which had been padlocked by BPD. Inspector Howard made three attempts at Eutaw Liquors to serve the licensees with notice of the Liquor Board hearing April 6, April 9, and April 12, 2018. When Howard called licensee Anthony Hargrove, Howard “was told that he will not accept or sign anything and that [he] should not contact him again.”

Apparently, the licensees were served with notice elsewhere. At the May 3, 2018 Liquor Board hearing, the Board agreed to postpone the violation hearing until the criminal charges could be addressed. This hearing has not yet been rescheduled but may be held in April. The store has been closed since the March 2018 raid.

There is an additional “compliance check” inspection report in the online file from September 2018: perhaps to make sure that the licensed establishment was still closed?

Routine Inspections

There were two “routine” inspections at Eutaw Liquors in 2018, two weeks apart, before the police raid in late March.

January 12, 2018: There was essentially no information in the inspection report written by Inspector Terri Chase.

January 23, 2018: On this date, everything looked satisfactory to Inspector John Howard. Howard noted that he “[s]trongly recommended that the sale and or giving cups to customers be discontinued and that customers not be allowed to open package goods in store.” There is no rule that prohibits the sale of cups, although the practice facilitates public intoxication.

On the other hand, there is a rule against on-premises consumption of package goods in a package goods store like Eutaw Liquors.

Rule 4.20(a): (a) Class A and Class A-2: No On-Premise Consumption: The holders of a Class A and Class A-2 license shall not allow patrons that purchase alcoholic beverages for off-premise consumption to consume those alcoholic beverages on location of the premises at any time during the operation of the business, except where provided for by Article 2B.

(Article 2B is no longer in effect: it was completely repealed and replaced by the Alcoholic Beverages Article in 2016. The Liquor Board’s Rules and Regulations are wildly out of date.)

Why was a citation not issued in place of this “strong recommendation”? (I have never actually seen, to my recollection, a citation or violation hearing for allowing people to open and consume package goods in a Class A liquor store.)

The Liquor Board has focused its enforcement on sale to minors, essentially to the exclusion of nearly all other complaints and concerns relating to alcohol in Baltimore City. At Eutaw Liquors, there was cocaine and heroin almost in plain view, sold by employees of the store itself, perhaps even aided and abetted by the licensees, but at least they didn’t get caught selling alcohol to a minor!

The four Eutaw Liquors employees arrested during the March 2018 raid had all been previously convicted of felonies: some violent, including rape and murder, and some drug related.

Officer Austin closed his report by saying, “The evidence presented shows that Eutaw Liquors is not plagued by the drug crime on the 100 block of N. Eutaw St. Instead, Eutaw Liquors is contributing to the drug crime and is profiting from the harm and deaths inflicted by controlled dangerous substances. The rampant lawlessness and violence that occurs in this area around Eutaw Liquors is a direct consequence of Eutaw Liquors condoning and committing drug transactions.”

Why didn’t the Liquor Board’s inspectors notice the constant drug sales going on inside the business, which was so obvious to everyone else? Why didn’t the inspector issue a citation for the violation of the Liquor Board’s rules that he did see? Why are sales to minors seemingly the only violation that the Liquor Board investigates?

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